Monday, March 25, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for March 24

Sunday Morning was our Choir Presentation, so there is no video from that. Here is the evening sermon:

Audio Link

Video Embed:

Outline:

I. Did Jesus expect to be arrested that night?

A. Yes: Note what occurs during the Last Supper, vv. 27-35

B. Yes: Note what Matthew says in v. 56: this is the fulfillment of promise

C. Yes: Note what Jesus said in Mark 10:45: He came to give His life

II. Was the life of Jesus tragically shortened?

A. No: death on the Cross when it happened was His plan

B. No: cannot shorten the life of the Eternal One

1. John 1

2. Hebrews 10:20

III. Did Jesus expect the disciples to be arrested with Him?

A. No: He knew He would be abandoned

B. No: Judas’ presence to betray Him shows this

IV. Could anything have prevented His arrest?

A. The Hands of Men

1. A true commitment to justice

2. Peter with his sword

B. The Hosts of Heaven

1. More than a dozen legions of angels

a) That is a lot of angels

b) 12 legions of Romans=at least 72,000

c) The Romans used only 4 to conquer and destroy Jerusalem in AD 70

                                    d) Jesus can call on more than that

C. The Power of God

1. Take a quick look at John 18:6

2. The very voice of Jesus knocks down the arresting force

V. Was there any other way but the way of the Garden?

A. The Father would have offered it

B. The Son would have taken it

C. Yet without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins

VI. What, then, shall we do?

  1. Recognize that Jesus chose to go the Cross through the Garden
  2. Recognize that He have all willingly
  3. Commit to do the same

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book: The Story of the Voice

Back some 3 years ago, I did a review of The Voice: New Testament. I liked the style of the translation, but had some reservations about the decisions that were made. Since then, there have been some updates and revisions—and not that I think they listened to me, personally, but at least one of my criticisms is now invalid in light of the updates. That would be the one of how John the Baptist was titled.

Some of my other questions and critiques receive a great response in today’s book, The Story of the Voice. This little book provides the background on the creation of this very different Bible translation.

First, there is the background story of the major movers in forming the Ecclesia Bible Society. It’s not major biographies, just a few vignettes highlighting the key individuals involved. This section is enlightening as to motivations, which is helpful. The question is rightly asked “Why another English Bible when there are whole languages without one?” and this portion helps answer that. Admittedly, I still don’t know what a “typical Baptist preacher” is, but I do know that Chris Seay isn’t one from reading his background.

Second in The Story of the Voice comes a deeper look at the choices made in the translation. There is the predictable criticism of existing Bible translations and the methods used to accomplish them. The inaccessibility of literal translations is lamented, the weakness of dynamic equivalence translations in not going far enough to capture thought is expressed, and the need for adding artistic efforts is stated.

In addressing these issues, explanations are given for why The Voice eschewed traditional transliterations such as “Christ” or “apostle.” The logic makes sense and shows that the intent of the translation group was not to de-Christ the Bible but to make the meaning plain to all who would read it. I see that what was accomplished was a moving of the problem: instead of needing to teach in community what “Christ” means, users of The Voice will need to teach what “Anointed One” means.

That’s not all bad, though, and the reasoning is sound. Further understanding of the whys and wherefores of making The Voice helps me as a skeptic of the original outcome better support the idea. I would still not encourage The Voice as one’s primary Bible—and still prefer the more literal NASB, but my dislike for The Voice has changed based on the explanations in The Story of the Voice.

This book helps make the case for why The Voice translation was made. The story is told well. Some will still have too many arguments with the methods used, and that is a discussion worth having. By releasing this little book, I think we see the driving forces behind The Voice showing they are willing to participate in the conversation.

Free book provided by Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program in exchange for the review.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Obligatory Foolishness: Romans 1

We finished Acts in our Through the Whole Bible Series. Obviously, much more could be said about every inch of that book, but the goal is not to exhaustively plumb the depths of each nuance of Scripture. The goal is to take a look through and find high points or overlooked subtleties along the way. At some point, hopefully soon, I’ll do a separate post with some recommended resources to dig deeper on the passages that have been covered in this series.

I will admit, though, that I reminded you of that background for a reason. Starting with today, I am going to cover Romans in the same manner. Romans is a beautiful book. In all honesty, just about every theological concept necessary to the Christian faith is expressed in Romans—we need the whole Bible for the whole picture, but Romans makes for a really nice framework to fill in for that puzzle.

And Romans 1 is dense. There is enough to wrestle with in the opening word of the letter to keep us busy for a week: Paul. His story and personality alone could fill a blog series for months. Then there is how he identifies himself: Slave Paul, belonging to Christ Jesus. He counts his apostle status as something he is “called” but his servanthood to Jesus is who he is. Wrap that around your head for a day or two.

That’s just the first phrase. The first chapter of Romans has been involved in the conversion of Martin Luther and the faith of John Wesley. The answers to several questions regarding theology and the nature of judgment are found in Romans 1. Modern history could be expressed in this chapter. There is much here, and you should read and re-read it. Study and understand what it is that “the just shall live by faith.”

Yet I want to shine a little light onto Romans 1:14 & Romans 1:22. Taking the latter first, Paul is summarizing the response of the heathen nations to the general revelation of God. In theological terms, general revelation is the manner in which the created universe reveals God. It is visible to all. Romans 1:22 states that, though the general revelation of Creation was there for all to see, most people turned their back on God and instead worshiped idols.

Why would we do such a thing? Simply put, we became too smart for our own good. Our own wisdom leads us, at times, to think we are capable of figuring out and understanding everything all on our own. Then, as we claim this depth of knowledge, we actually become fools. Fools who do not recognize their own foolishness.

Where do we turn? Romans 1:14 gives us that guideline: Paul tells the Romans that he is under obligation to fools and to the wise, to proclaim the Gospel. What does that mean?

1. No matter how smart we are, we need the ever-stabilizing truth that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Whatever level of wisdom we have, that is standard.

2. No matter how foolish we become, we are not foolish beyond being saved by the righteousness of God, revealed by faith as it is written. No amount of blindness due to our cultures, our sins, or our own intelligence is so strong that God cannot overcome it to bring salvation.

3. Whatever claim we make in churches that we are trying to reach “group A” or “group B,” the reality is that we are under obligation to all groups to proclaim the Gospel. If your church does not welcome all who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God to hear the Gospel, that the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, then you are failing in the obligation. Yes, hip church, this means your anti-necktie stance that alienates suit wearers is sinful. Yes, stuffy high church, this means your anti-open-collar stance that alienates normal people is sinful. All the more, if your church is only worship-friendly to people that check the same “ethnic” box as you, that must change. And you, hyper-techie church that does all your meeting digitally? All those folks who just use their phones to make calls need the Gospel, too, you know…

And yes, this includes the church I pastor and how we must adapt. Our obligation is not just to the people we like. It is not just to the people we approve of.

It is for wise people and foolish people.

If that means we are counted fools by the world for rejecting its wisdom, then we are obligated to foolishness. Proclaim the Gospel, and let God do his work.

Today’s Nerd Note: I would commend, again, to you the history of how God has used Romans 1, especially vv. 16-17. Look it up in a good commentary or Study Bible.

Further, consider the lists of sinful behaviors in Romans 1:29-31. These all come back to the same root issue. What is that issue?

Notice also that these run the gamut, from murder to being disobedient children. There are heart-sins and action-sins. It all matters.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Holistic Worship: Leviticus 24

Leviticus is fast nearing its end, but there are some hurdles to clear as we wrap this up. Leviticus 24 continues the overall theme of the third book of Moses: how to live all of life in obedient worship of the One True God.

Leviticus 24 gives us a paired set of worship instructions. Opening with the directions on the weekly bread to be placed in the sanctuary area and connecting that with the oil that is to be kept burning in the area, Moses speaks to the idea of a sacred space for the Israelites. The idea of “sacred space” is not exclusive to the Judaic heritage of Leviticus, nor only to the Christian ethos that develops from it. In reality, nearly every religion has a component that suggests designating areas that are places for worship. Even atheists have places that they gather to remind and reinforce their beliefs.

It is of value, perhaps more so now than ever before. Consider how much life encroaches on every square inch of us these days. There’s mail stacked here, the phone is ringing over there, and the noise of music, TV, games, and so forth just piles up. Marking out a spot on the map that is intentionally set aside for worship is a way of maintaining sanity. It is a place where we can pull back into amidst chaos and mayhem. A place to be reminded of the provider of the basic needs of life, light and food being two of them.

However, one cannot stop at Sabbath set-asides and sanctuary spaces. To do so is to fail to incorporate all of the testimony and command of Scripture. In the same area that we have the commands regarding light and Sabbaths and bread, we also have the reminder of the justice statutes of the time. These rules are often considered old-fashioned and heavy-handed, yet that heritage is due more to the breach than to the observance.

Considering the classic of “an eye for an eye” one must consider that this is as much a limitation as it is a command. One cannot take a life for an eye—only as much harm as we done may be reflected in the punishment. Further, the idea here was not that individuals would go about blinding one another but that these were guidelines for the judicial system. Much more should be said about seeing a justice system that follows the guidelines of Leviticus: restorative to the wronged, punitive to the transgressor, and equally applied to all strata of society. If taken together, this would have been a deterrent in many ways to further crime—allowing the religion of the Israelites to work on the hearts of people to be more like God while the law constrained their actions from harming their neighbors.

Yet the final component above, the equal application of law to all strata of society, is the one that is crucial in the concept of worship. Participating in injustice, depriving people of proper treatment under the law and their Creator-endowed rights, is certainly out for the people of God. You cannot oppress your fellow human beings Monday-Friday and go worship on Sunday. Contrary to any historic or artistic depictions of the great dictators of the world also going to church on Sundays, it just does not work.

The people of God, however, cannot sit idly by Monday-Saturday and then show up in church on Sunday to pray for good things to happen. The Levitical Law commanded that the people set up the societal structures that made justice happen. This is part of being able to worship with the redeemed in our sacred spaces: a commitment to justice in all of life.

One must remember that this is justice based on God’s standard, God’s Word—not human ideas or the winds of politics. Still, that commitment has often lacked in our lives as followers of Christ, at least historically. We need to address this, but address it starting from the text and working out, not starting with the polls and twisting the text to get tehre.

Holistic worship is not merely worship that involves all the voices in the room or all the ages in the building. It’s worship that reflects throughout all of our lives. It starts in our sacred spaces, but it refuses to stay there.

Today’s Nerd Note: A couple of things:

1. Did you see what Leviticus 24:7 puts on the bread that is sitting on a gold table? Frankincense. Gold, frankincense, and the priest’s anointing oil has myrrh in it. (Exodus 30:23) All of these, together with bread? John 6:48, anyone? While I do not think that Moses would have seen Jesus looking at the table in the first place, if we do not see Jesus looking back at the table, our glasses are perhaps a little dirty.

2. The middle story of Leviticus 24 is somewhat peculiar. You have two men in a fight. One of them blasphemes God. He is then detained, the Law consulted, God Himself is consulted, and then the man is executed.

The story, though, gives us more info: the fight is between a man who is 100% Israelite and a man who is 50/50 Egyptian and Israelite. Well, biologically, but his father was the Egyptian, meaning he would have been counted as an Egyptian. His father would have done his teaching, and his knowledge of Israel’s God would have been slimmer than the other man’s knowledge.

The law calls for his execution just the same. Why? Because the law applies to all who are in/among the people of Israel. They are not to be harsher with outsiders, nor to be more lenient. The Law is what it is, and if you are going to live and share the blessings of the covenant, then the rules apply as well.

Now, how exactly does one live that principle into the modern era? That is more delicate: we ought not execute people over religion or even religious offenses. Nor should we use the civil authority to enforce religious conformity or preference. There remain implications, and those should be considered and defined as we go forward into a future that will not be religiously supportive.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for March 17

We went out yesterday afternoon and offered to change smoke detector batteries or install smoke detectors around town. We also invited everyone to a cookout at the church last night. While we talked to a lot of people, we didn’t have anyone take us up on dinner. However, I think it was good and we used up a lot of batteries and smoke detectors.

Morning Sermon Audio is here

Video is here:

And here is the outline:

The Law of Liberty: James 1:19-27

I. The Law of Liberty

     A. Reflects what is inside of us

     B. Is the guideline for how we live

II. Religious Law

     A. Controls outer actions

     B. Fails to change the heart

     C. Often seeks more from others 

III. The Law of the Word

     A. Must be heard

     B. Must be done

     C. Serves those who are deemed worthless by society

          A. Widows/Orphans

          B. Slaves/oppressed

     D. Self-control

          A. Emotions

          B. Words

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book: Passion by Mike McKinley

Today’s book is brought to you by Cross Focused Media.

The book this week is Passion: How Christ’s Final Day Changes Your Every Day. It’s by Mike McKinley, pastor of Guilford Baptist Church in Virginia. As a pastor who wishes he could write a book, I’m marginally jealous of Pastor McKinley, but I’ll try not to be too picky in my review.

Passion is focused on Luke’s account of the last days of Jesus’ life, going from the Last Supper through the Resurrection. I will not give you all the details of that. Grab your Bible or kick over to BibleGateway and read Luke 22. Do that and come back.

McKinley has taken a sermon series and converted it into book form. This is the first strength of the text. Passion reflects not a cold academic parsing the nth degree of the Greek verb, though there is value in that, but instead the concern of a pastor who stands before a congregation every week.

The pastoral influence in Passion runs throughout the book. McKinley is concerned with the implications of the final day of Jesus for our life as Christians today. It is easily readable on the vocabulary and grammar front, though it can be challenging on the spiritual side.

Further, the text is short enough to be read through devotionally on a daily basis. No, not the whole book, but a section at a time.

If I had to find a fault, it would be the focus on Luke without spending much time on the parallel accounts in other Gospels. This is, honestly, a by-product of being a sermon-in-print, and it really does not harm the content of Passion.

In all, I liked this book. If you are looking for a good Passion Week study, grab a few copies and discuss this book.

Disclosure: book provided by Cross Focused Media in exchange for the review.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Unhindered: Acts 28

We’ve reached the end of the book of Acts. Paul and company are shipwrecked on the island of Malta at the beginning. By the end, Paul is in his own “rented quarters,” where he spends a definite time of two years. He is likely still under guard (Acts 28:16) which makes this a form of home detention.

Yet he nearly did not make it off of Malta. Well, at least that was what the Maltese expected. Back in Acts 28:3-5, Paul is bitten by a snake. The shipwrecked crew, prisoners, and soldiers are gathering firewood and Paul gathers up an asp in the process. The locals expect what is referred to on the internet these days as “instant karma” where Paul is immediately treated as he deserves, but brought on by an unexpected means.

Mid-Nerd Note: v. 4 refers to “justice.” Or to “Justice” as the goddess of right/wrong and law. It is actually rather difficult to tell from the language, as the same word applies to both the concept and the deity behind it in the Greek-speaking world. Either the Maltese expected that the principles of the universe were getting even with Paul, or that a deity of the pantheon was. Either way, they are wrong.

Paul, however shakes off the snake and goes on about his business. The people begin, then, to wonder if he’s one of the gods rather than a victim of them. And Paul goes on about his business. He is asked to heal the father of the chief man of the island, and then to heal about every other sick person on the island. (No word on him leaving a falcon, though.)

They cross the sea over on to the Apennine Peninsula, and make their way up to Rome. Along the way, Paul meets with Jews and Christians, sharing the Gospel and encouraging the people. He remains guarded, as mentioned, but is free to preach and teach those who come to him.

Through it all, Paul goes about his business.

1. Paul is not shaken to depression in the bad parts. While we do not know the finer points of his mindset, we see Paul consistently doing what he is supposed to do. That is worth remembering: do not give in. Keep up.

2. Paul is not pushed to excessive exaltation in the good parts. We also do not see Paul turning into an adrenaline or success junkie through all of this. The good is what it is, the bad is what it is. There is still the day’s work to be done.

3. Paul is confirmed in his commitment. While his heart’s desire, as we see in Romans, is to see his own people Israel to believe Jesus is Lord, he has long counted himself on a mission to the Gentiles of this world. When he meets with the Jews of Rome, he attempts to persuade them of the truth of Christianity, but they refuse. He is again reminded that his goal is to share with anyone, and so takes the Jew along with the Greek.

4. Paul is unhindered despite his circumstances. The closing word of the book of Acts is ακωλυτως. (That should be the unaccented Greek word.) It is the word unhindered. He is possibly chained to a Roman guard, although it is possible that his home detention is more like having a strict parole, with check-in times. Or that the guard just lives with Paul. Whatever the case, no one is stopped from coming to him, and he is able to speak to all. He is unhindered in his preaching.

5. Paul is unhindered in who he receives. This one is important, and I think we overlook it too often. Our focus is often on Paul in the closing verses, but look at Acts 28:30. Paul receives all who come to him. In our days of specialty churches that take people of this type but distance themselves from people of that type or of targeting our evangelism here but not bothering with there, we have Paul. Receiving all. He makes no distinction between Jews or Gentiles, Romans or Barbarians, all.

How many of us really have that mentality in how we live the Christian life? That we would want all to come to us to know the Faith?

Today’s Nerd Note(s): 1. Ever consider how often God uses snakes for His purposes in Scripture? Even at Eden, then coming through Moses, Pharaoh, the snakes of judgment in the wilderness, Nehushtan, and here…and those are just from memory. The snake is possibly the most common non-sacrificial animal with symbolic usage in Scripture. While this should not put us on to snake-charming, that should make us consider something: here’s the creature that helps induce the fall, yet here is the creature that often shows forth God’s glory and mercy for others. Don’t be the snake.

2. Notice Paul’s usage of Isaiah at the end. He cites the lesser-remembered part of the call of Isaiah, where God points out that people will hear but not receive, see but not understand. This is the story of Paul’s life, and is part of the pattern of Christian witness in the world: here we are, but are we heeded? What difference does it make? Faithfulness is our call. Faithful to the truth, the love, the holiness, the grace of God. Handle that, and let the rest come as it may.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Take the Rest of the Day Off: Leviticus 23

The end of Leviticus is in sight, but there are a few things to clear up. While Leviticus gets a fairly well-deserved reputation as a book of rules, we do not need to miss some of the points that are rules, but have a bit of a different flavor to them.

Leviticus 23 is one of those chapters. The primary focus here are religious feasts and festivals, starting with the frequent weekly and moving to the regular annual observances for the Israelites.

Without attempting to deal with the Christological significance of the Day of Atonement here, because that is better handled by others and a major feature of most Christian commentaries on Leviticus, let’s look at the whole situation. First, you have the weekly Sabbaths decreed by God. Then you see various annual feasts, festivals, and observances prescribed. These include the Passover, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths.

It may be tempting to argue that the Passover and the Day of Atonement are more important, because more effort is given to their description and instruction. However, I would suggest that this would be an error. There are multiple ways to communicate importance, and length is one of them. Priority of place is also a communicator of importance—and the Sabbath itself is mentioned first. The better decision here is to see all of these as important in the religious life of theocratic Israel.

What lesson is there for us, then? Does the applicability here wait until the New Jerusalem?

Hardly. Let us consider a few things:

1. There are days that have a more important feel to them in the Christian life. Christmas. Easter. Mother’s Day. (Ok, that one just gets more people to church.) These days have significance. We mark important historically real events on these days, just as Passover marks the actual event of the Exodus or Hanukkah marks the actual rededication of the Temple in the Maccabean Revolt. While there are some who argue for the flattening of every event in the church and not treating any day as greater than the other, I do not feel that is the correct response.

2. There are days that we think are just not that important. The first Sunday after the time changes…the Sunday duck season comes in. Those are not that important. After all, we can do what we need on those days…as long as we show up for the big ones, right?

Actually, falling off the cliff in either of those directions is not helpful for us. We can take from this passage in Leviticus that there can be days of highlight in the worship of the One True God, but that we cannot neglect the frequent gathering of believers. That gathering is important—imagine a married couple that only really thought about being married on their anniversary, or a parent that only noticed their child on a birthday. That would be a little on the foolish side, would it not?

Yet we can also see the foolishness in acting like every day is just the same, and forgetting the important moments. Think that’s not the case? Tell your mother that after you skip over Mother’s Day this year. I dare you.

The worship of Israel at this time is instructed to be regularly occurring, and to not be neglected on the weekly basis of Sabbaths. Yet the highlight days are to be remembered as well, no matter when they fall.

What constituted worship on those days? First and foremost was “rest.” A cessation of the normal activities of life: if your “worship” days look just like every other day, then you’re missing the point. Then there were prescriptions of gathering or sacrifice, depending on the day.

In all, though, worship was about making God and His grace, mercy, holiness, righteousness, and justice the focus of your day. Not your crops, your animals, or your business. Not yourself. Resting from self-centeredness is a good thought for worship days. Perhaps it could stick all week afterwards.

Today’s Nerd Note: Take a look at Leviticus 23:22. What do we have here?

A restatement of the Law of Gleaning, the Israelite form of community support of the poor.

It’s right here, in the midst of worship days. Why?

Because you cannot worship and neglect the needy. Obviously, the focus here is on the needy of the community, but the idea can certainly apply more broadly.

Why that focus in the middle of this?

Worship, at its core, is about centering our attention on God. In Biblically appropriate ways, certainly, but moving our focus off of ourselves and onto the Holy One. And this is not possible if we are working throughout the intervening times to profit ourselves and neglect those who are made in God’s image.

It just does not work.

Monday, March 11, 2013

March 11: Proverbs 11:24-26

Taking a look at Proverbs 11:24-26, with an emphasis on 11:25, let’s consider this for a few moments. The wisdom here is that stockpiling without sharing leads to poverty. Notice that each of these verses reflects the destruction of wealth through hoarding:

 

Proverbs 11:24 and 26 speak of the one who withholds.

The contrast here is between those who hoard up and those who share. The sharing does not even have to be completely sacrificial: 11:26 definitely shows the idea of selling what you have stockpiled, not giving it away. The idea is certainly divorced from high-profit speculation and is instead based in an economy where a little increase year-over-year through hard work was to be valued more than an instant profit.

 

If we take this and compare it to our modern American Economy, what do we find? Oftentimes, we find that our system is divorced from the Biblical idea of wisdom. We want the profit right now. Certainly, the idea of slow accumulation and patient distribution is not generally acceptable to most financial wizards. Low-margin, consistent growth is considered a bad thing.

 

Yet this runs counter to the wisdom of Scripture, which suggests that a self-focused economic view is empty. These are things we need to consider as we organize ourselves as God’s people. It may be legal, and should be, to be self-centered in life.

 

But the people of God are not concerned with that which is legal more than with that which is right, are we?

Sermon Wrap-Up for March 10

Here is the final review of the sermons from Almyra Baptist Church, March 10, 2013:

Morning Sermon: Isaiah 55

Audio Link (note: the audio link will open a page in a new window, where you can just click the “play” button to hear the sermon)

Video Embed:

Do I always start on the piano side? I think I do…
 

Outline:

March 10 AM: Isaiah 55

I. Our Danger

A. Prosperity

B. Want

II. Our Need

A. Real Nourishment

B. Real Relief

III. Our Hope

A. The offer of grace

B. The speaking God

IV. Our Witness

A. To us: the heavens

B. To all: the Word

C. From us: as joyful people

V. Our Response

A. Seek

B. Repent

C. Worship

Evening Sermon: Philippians 2:12-13

Audio Link is here.

Outline here:

March 10 PM: Philippians 2:12-13

I. Obedience: Not about pleasing others

II. Obedience: Not about earning salvation

III. Obedience: Not about making God's will happen

IV. Obedience: About God working in you

V. Obedience: About God working through you

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Stop Wasting Time: Arkansas State Legislature

To: The esteemed Representatives and Senators in the Arkansas State Legislature.

From: Your constituents.

Re: Certain Pending Bills.

Most of us Arkansans are good with the laws that have come to pass in the past few months. Even knowing that the pro-life bills will probably be stricken by a court challenge, especially since I doubt the Attorney General of Arkansas will actually make an effort to defend them, most of us do not view those as a waste of time. (In fact, I’d love to see some of the attorneys in this state that are actually pro-life do the defense of those laws pro bono. Maybe even a few pro-life organizations can help with the cost, so that the “we don’t want to waste state money” excuse goes away.)

However, you’re ranging too far afield. If tattoo parlors and such are not subject to the State Health Department verifying the cleanliness of the establishment, then they should be. But bothering with blocking certain procedures? Let’s not get silly, here. Additionally, why do we care? I’m for a law that makes anything beyond a simple ear-piercing an adult-only (or parental consent-required) procedure, but when we start making laws to ban this type or that, it’s nonsense. Again, if tattoo/body art procedures and establishments are less regulated than barbers, that’s another matter—put that in place. That would be revenue neutral: let the appropriate regulatory agency charge the necessary fees to recoup the cost. But let’s not waste resources sending the police after someone for performing an illegal body art procedure. It’s a luxury item, so tax it if you want to keep it controlled, but banning it? Silliness does not become the Legislature.

Further, sit down with the Governor about business regulations, taxation, and education. The reality is this: people move business opportunities away from Arkansas over all three of these issues. If we have a weak education system, larger businesses go elsewhere to find a viable workforce. I seem to recall an incident in the 1990s where Alltel expanded workforce in Georgia, even being an Arkansas company, not because of taxes but because the Central Arkansas area couldn’t support the need for 200 or so jobs that required basic math. That’s a problem.

If you cut business taxes and regulations, you won’t get new employers if they cannot get workers that spell their names and add 2+2. If you jack up taxes to improve education, you will not get more businesses because they will go elsewhere. You need to find a way forward that covers both needs. Stop being so elephant-footed and donkey-minded that you cannot work together. We’re Arkansans: we’re hog-headed but that’s another matter.

Alongside that, the biggest obstacle to business and education in this state is not taxation. It’s the corruption and cronyism inherent in the bureaucracy. Just listen for a few minutes to people who strive to open businesses or get started in an area that they are not from or that they are not the “right people.” If you know the right person in the right department of the county or of the State Government, you can get permits, permissions, or exemptions. An outsider? You’re toast. The anecdotes are everywhere, but you’re all too busy trying to become the bureaucratic power that you miss the point that having a bureaucratic power is the killer. Even if it’s you.

Your job is important, it’s stressful, and you need diversions. However, trifling matters like body art aren’t the diversions you need. If you need a day off before you get back to real budget issues, then take it. Otherwise, quit wasting time and get to the real work that needs doing.

Doug Hibbard

Today in History: March 9, 1862

Today in History, March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia clashed in a naval battle. (Not a navel battle, as that involves throwing oranges at one another and hoping to hit your opponent in the belly button. Navel battles are used to settle citrus grove disputes in Apopka, Florida.)

History remembers this date because it was the first conflict of two metal-armored vessels and it changes the face of naval warfare. The ships get bigger, the armor heavier, and eventually wood ships fade away. The next major change in naval combat really comes at Midway in World War 2 when naval warfare becomes centered on naval aviation. Well, and with the advent of effective submarine warfare, something pioneered by the CSS Hunley, but not truly coming into its own until the World Wars. However, submarine warfare is much more of a one-to-one proposition rather than an all-out battle. Still, respects to the Silent Service folks.

I think there is something of greater importance to remember about the battle of the Monitor and the Virginia. It’s this:

Neither one of those ships are seaworthy. They’ve both been sunk and then partially salvaged or scavenged. The great historic battle? Actually irrelevant in the outcome of the US Civil War.

In all honesty, it was even fought before the Civil War was truly about the right and honorable goal of ending slavery: had the Union won in 1862, slavery would have persisted for a time longer in the United States. It’s only after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that the war is truly going to result in the end of slavery.

What do I think we need to learn?

Some wars are worth winning, and the battles necessary to win them are worth fighting.

At the end of the day, though, both ships sink and it’s all over. You may be famous for your involvement, but do you really accomplish anything?

Consider whether the battle you are fighting is worth anything. If it isn’t, then maybe living to fight another day when the battle matters.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book: The Connecting Church 2.0

Today’s book review is from Cross-Focused Media and Zondervan Publishing.

What can I say about The Connecting Church 2.0? First, I would observe that the “2.0” is not done as a hype statement but as evidence that Randy Frazee has updated and modified his book The Connecting Church. I will confess to this: I never read that one. In all honesty, I had never heard of Randy Frazee before I was emailed this potential book tour.

So, first, who is Randy Frazee? He is the senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. That role was initially Max Lucado’s, and now Lucado and Frazee work together, although the general indication is that Frazee handles most of the work. That being said, sometimes old trees produce strong branches and sometimes they rot, so Frazee must of course stand on his own.

I think he does a good job of doing so in The Connecting Church 2.0. The essence of the work is an emphasis on moving back from our over-corporate mentality in American churches and moving back toward a mentality that connects people to people, and people to Jesus.

His effort is excellent. The problem is well-diagnosed: the American Dream leads to a level of individualism that is absolutely foreign to Biblical Christianity. There must be a definite effort to kick back against that result.

The challenge here is finding the right implementation: it could easily become a program for community to help balance the programs that have substituted for it. At which point we’ll need another program. The loop will not stop.

However, Frazee’s book is a needed corrective on some of our over-building in the American church. While it’s not the magic wand for all issues, it’s a good start, and would be a good discussion starter among Christians.

Apologetic note: I had the notes for a more in-depth review for this book. They’re tucked into the book, which I apparently left somewhere and now both are gone. There were some specific cautions inherent about not over-applying guidance in The Connecting Church 2.0 about obedience: remember, unflinching obedience is due to God, not to any human representative thereof; a few other concerns. All told, though, this is a good book for some practicals on how to shift the direction of entrenched churches toward a better way. I liked it.

 

Disclosure: free book in exchange for the review.

Happy Birthday Ann!

Around our house, typically four days a year are met with beautifully worded, wonderfully pictured birthday posts.

Except there’s five people in this house. One of them doesn’t get the beautifully worded, wonderfully pictured birthday posts. Why?

Well, because if there’s anything beautiful and flowing in this house, it’s because Ann Hibbard is the one who is beautiful and flowing, and it just comes from her. Usually, in the amazing interactions with our children or the great things she does, I’m too caught up in wonder to even think about taking a picture.

So there’s no real way for me to explain the awesome wonder that my wife is. If you know her, you know how much she does and how wonderful she is. She writes for Home Educating Family, both reviews and columns. She’s one of the behind-the-scenes people trying to minister to Arkansas Baptist minister’s wives, but you’ll rarely see her take any credit for it. She’s frequently the reason church folks put up with me.

So, Happy Birthday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sermon Wrap-Up for March 3

First of all, we had a guest preacher for Sunday Morning. Ben Browning preached for us on Joshua 1.

Here is the audio link and the video:

That evening, we were back to me preaching. I was in John 21. There isn’t really an outline to post, but here is the audio link and the video:

I definitely enjoyed hearing Ben preach that morning, but Almyrans, don’t get too many funny ideas. He’s got a job in Little Rock and no interest in moving out here to replace me Smile

Doug

Worship Services Recap for July 12

Here is what you’ll find: there is an audio player with the sermon audios built-in to it, just click to find the one you want. You’ll also f...